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Personal blog of Ross Hollman.

Updated: 2016-10-24T05:02:33.801-06:00


Apple Watch this


The challenge for the Apple Watch is actually more than one.Here’s what’s on my wrist right now:It seems like it would be really easy to convince me to consolidate into an Apple Watch, but that’s actually not true.  The Apple Watch doesn’t really remind me of a watch that I would wear.  I like Franck Muller-style blocky, rectangular watches, and I’m sure someone will come up with an Apple Watch theme that can make the face look like one, but I don’t wear a tank watch and it’s not what I think about when I think about owning and wearing something on a daily basis.  My vision of the watch that I wear is something classically round and refined and that’s not what the Apple Watch looks or feels like to me.There are only 3 Apple Watches.  Sure, they can (and will) be customized with not only the straps made by Apple, but those that are made by other Apple accessory makers.  Frankly, I would imagine that there will be a market created to do cool things to the exterior of the watch casing — if you don’t believe me, just Google about Rolexes and PVD coating; the industry already exists, you just don’t know about it yet.  For that matter, take a look at all the companies that sell customized versions of high-end watches that have jewels embedded into the casing, etc.The watch that you wear is and has been a badge.  I don’t need a watch that is submersible to 4,000ft below sea level with a helium release valve any more than anyone needs a Mont Blanc pen to sign documents.  In my opinion, at least until the point that this changes, the watch has been as much a piece of visible jewelry as it has been functional.  Watches are extremely visible badges and ways to allow people to label you and you to label yourself.  If you buy into the Apple Watch and try to fit it to that mold, the reality is that you will be badging yourself with one of only three (for now) models … no matter how much you sink into customizing it.  Consider the fact that there are 8.7 million results on Google when you input “unique engagement ring” — visible jewelry has always seemed to have a need to feel unique.Luxury wristwatches are all about the story that you tell yourself when you buy and wear the watch.  The story I tell myself about my watch is that it is tough and timeless and recognizable and functional when a SCUBA dive.  Of course, I can SCUBA dive with a sub-$50 watch and achieve the same result, but it’s the rest of the story that makes me wear my watch and that made me invest in it to begin with.  From the time that I was in high school, my yardstick of success was getting to a point where I could afford my watch without it being a major budgetary issue.  I also tell myself that my watch is portable wealth: it’s immediately recognizable anywhere in the word and exchangeable for local currency and even if the value placed on it isn’t the same as the value I place on it, I know that I’ll be walking away with more than I would wearing a generic G-shock.One thing about luxury wristwatches that people that don’t care about luxury wristwatches don’t know about is the mechanism.  For the most part, while you do have to get a nice watch serviced, you do not have to plug it in or get a battery replaced — the mechanism inside the watch stores energy when you wear it and basically will allow it to run perpetually (that’s the reason why luxury watch brands such as Rolex call their mechanisms “perpetual”).  Typically when I’ve worn watches that have required battery replacement, I basically throw them in a drawer when they stop working.  Having an everyday wear piece of jewelry that actually has to be plugged in an charged, no matter how cool the charging mechanism might be, it potentially problematic for how I envision my watch to work.I did not start out with a Fitbit Flex, but now I wear it pretty religiously.  The funny part is that I have no issue wearing it on exactly the same wrist as my watch — I actually [...]

Tenley Project™ 2013


I'm a little bit behind here.  It's December 14 and we are racing to ramp up with the Tenley Project™ in 2013 we have in previous years.Last year we donated 55 American Girl dolls and a matching $5,000 donation to the Children's Hospital in Denver, which is amazing.But let me back up a little bit.In 2010 we started this whole thing off with a holiday lesson for my 5-year-old daughter -- you can read the original story here.Over the past several years, through the generosity of people around the world, Tenley has succeeded in donating hundreds of American Girl dolls (and other toys) to the Children's Hospital in Denver and through the generosity of and anonymous donor, thousands of dollars in cash donations to the hospital as well.Just after Thanksgiving, Seth Godin posted about charitable giving (you can read the whole post if you would like) and here's a quote from it:Why on earth would a rational person give money to charity--particularly a charity that supports strangers? What do they get? A story. In fact, every time someone donates to a good cause, they're buying a story, a story that's worth more than the amount they donated.The success of the Tenley Project™ has been attributed largely to the transparency that we've shared with Tenley's story and the transparency of Tenley herself in telling people about her project.  We get accused, a lot, about turning this project into something more commercial than the original message, but I can personally assure that nothing could be further from the truth.  As with anything that grows beyond the original vision, some amount of structure has to be put in-place in order to ensure that the goal is achieved.We have been lucky enough, over the past several years, to have the assistance of both friends and family in delivering all of the gifts to the hospital on Christmas day.  For the past several years, my parents have been in Colorado and been able to assist Tenley in delivering her gifts.  This project has been especially impactful on my mom who, as I was growing up, worked in a restaurant in California that donated its proceeds to Children's Hospital at Stanford and still works today with charitable organizations that fund the Children's Hospital at Stanford; for her, this is simply her granddaughter carrying on a tradition that has always been near to her heart.As this project has progressed, we still take the time to reinforce with Tenley the original reason why she started this project, which go back to those original 3 reasons by Anthony Robbins:Give with no expectation of receiving anything in return; do it because it feels good.Give when its hardest for you to do so -- when it's hardest is the best time to give.Give away a percentage (10% is what he recommends) of your money to reset your brain that there is actually enough.Tenley now spends her time during throughout the year saving up money to simply give away to her project -- I'm proud to say that she has learned these lessons well at a pretty young age and I hope that she embraces these lessons for the rest of her life.Our promise remains the same as it has in past years: if you donate money to the Tenley Project™, 100% of the money goes directly to support it.  That means that we pay the tax effect, we ensure that everything gets delivered, etc. -- absolutely no part of the money donated is used for anything other than directly benefiting Children's Hospital.  As with the past couple of years, we again have a donor that will match donations up to $5,000.00, so every dollar donated actually provides the hospital with a cash donation of an additional dollar.I am beyond proud of the fact that people that have donated in previous years have been querying us about the project -- some folks have even already donated for 2013 and we just received a doll in the mail the other day for Tenley to donate.  It seems as though Tenley's project has become part of a holiday tradition for people around the country, even when the support for on our[...]

Tenley Project™ 2012


It's hard to believe that it's year 3 of the Tenley Project™.  What started as a simple lesson in 2010 has turned into nothing short of extraordinary because of the generosity of friends and strangers from around the globe -- you can read the original story of how this all got started here if you're interested.This year I'm going to start at the end of last year.Although pictures are worth a thousand words, I'm going to share with you the story behind this picture.Thanks to the generosity of all of you, Tenley delivered over 50 American Girl dolls to Children's Hospital on Christmas morning last year.On her way through the lobby of Children's Hospital while carrying bags of dolls to the volunteer office, Tenley noticed the little girl in this picture sitting with her family on one of the benches, enjoying the sunlight in the atrium.  Tenley asked if she could deliver this little girl a doll and we told her that she absolutely could.Tenley went back into the volunteer office where all of the dolls where located and searched through the bags of dolls until she located one that she felt was perfect for this little girl.  She grabbed the bag and made her way across the lobby, heading straight for the girl without any hesitation, regardless of the fact that the girl was hooked up to a fairly significant amount of medical equipment that trailed behind her on a rolling rack.When Tenley went to hand the doll to the girl and asked the parents permission to do so, she discovered that not a single person int he family, including the little girl, spoke English -- no one was able to answer her.  Undeterred, Tenley put down the bag, opened the American Girl box, removed the doll, and handed the doll directly to the little girl, taking care not to disturb any of the lines or tubes that attached her to the equipment.The girl looked questioningly at Tenley for a moment, not entirely sure what to do with the unexpected gift and Tenley smiled at her and motioned with her hands that the doll was, in fact, a gift.  Disbelievingly, the little girl slowly wrapped her arms around the doll and lit up with a huge smile that was infectious to not only Tenley, but to the rest of the adults around observing, including the parents of the little girl.  Words, as they say, were not required.This year in 2012, I'm proud to support my daughter's efforts to again bring happiness to children at Children's Hospital in Denver.  In sharing this story over the past year, we find ourselves again lucky enough to have an anonymous donor that is upping the level and will match dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000.00 in donations with the matching donation delivered as a cash donation to Children's Hospital -- for every dollar that is donated to purchase a doll, the hospital gets a dollar in cash.I was recently involved in a charity event where the founder of the charity explained that in his studies, one of the biggest things that people complained about with charities was the fact that not 100% of the donation goes to the charity itself.  Rest assured that for the Tenley Project™, not only does 100% of the donation amount go to buy dolls, but I personally cover the sales tax and any gaps between the amounts donated and the actual purchase price of the doll; add in the anonymous matching cash donation, and it's safe to say that around 210% of the cash donations go to charity.As with previous years: if you feel inspired to participate in giving something to someone to make their holiday season more enjoyable, I certainly hope that you do so.  If you find yourself inspired to donate my daughter's project, you can do so on the donation page of the Tenley Project™ website -- any amount is appreciated greatly (and don't forget that every single dollar donated for a doll is matched with a dollar cash donation that goes direct to the hospital).  I know the economy is tough and if you find yourself not in a position to be able t[...]

Your car as another device on your data plan


There's really no reason this can't happen right now.

Take a look at the shared data plans currently being heavily promoted by both AT&T and Verizon pooled data plans that allow you to have up to 10 devices share the same pool of gigabytes of data; there's really no reason that a data pipe directly into your car couldn't simply be another device.

From the carrier perspective the value is an additional monthly access fee for the device and the consumer likely jumping into a higher data tier to accommodate the increased data consumption

On the consumer side, it makes it even easier to consume data and data-intensive services in the car without needing to pair your phone or even remember your phone in order to make use of them (note that if you're like me and you never remember to charge your phone in the car, it also means that you don't have to run all the battery-draining services to power the cool stuff in your car).

Also on the consumer side is a more seamless experience, especially for the non-prosumer: just turn on the car and fire up Pandora or let everyone in your SUV browse the internet, as opposed to having to pair with Bluetooth and turn on the hotspot mode on your phone.

This isn't the same argument of "I already have a cell phone, why do I need a car phone?", this is fundamentally more different based on how the carriers are now pricing data and devices and is due to the level of connectivity we expect in our vehicles.(image)

iPhone 4S un-cased


Today is the first time that I've had my iPhone 4S out of a case since the day I bought it.  This didn't happen by choice, it happened because my Mophie power charging case supply literally fell apart last night when I plugged it in.

Holding the iPhone with no case reminded me of why I bought it in the first place -- how amazing the design of the iPhone 4 series was and remains to be.  I had become so used to such a large case on the phone that I wasn't used to it easily slipping into a pocket; I wasn't used to how easy it is to type on the screen without a heavy plastic edge blocking the typing surface.

I have to be honest: it's hard to want to go back.  Yes, I had to already charge the phone once today as it drained down to 30% battery halfway through the day.  But it's still hard to feel like I should cover it back up again or make it any more bulky than it was originally designed to be.

So, for now the iPhone remains unprotected and without spare battery capacity, but man it's nice to look at and use it.(image)

You're a liar . . .


. . . and so am I.  More frequently than both of us probably suspect.

The question becomes: Do you focus on lie spotting or truth seeking?

Watch the video (click this link if the video doesn't work).

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Lying is a cooperative act.(image)

What is school for?


I strongly believe that it is time for schools to stop stealing dreams.Seth Godin summarizes this very well in his ebook on the subject, appropriately titled: "Stop Stealing Dreams".  You can download it here for free.  Note that this is conveniently formatted as a PDF that you can easily send to your friends with kids and your teachers and the administrators at your school -- I strongly encourage you to do so.I would also encourage you to watch the TEDx presentation that Seth Godin gave on Stop Stealing Dreams -- it's embedded below or you can click this link to get directly to it. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Here's my personal experience with this: my daughter is lucky enough to be in a charter school, which is basically a private school that is funded with state money.  The downside of the charter schools is that they are subject to the same testing routines as public schools in order to keep their funding, so they still have to teach to the test and are still restricted to the factory mentalities that are endemic in public schools.At the beginning of this year my daughter tested well below her reading level.  The initial reaction to that, as a parent, is that you have somehow failed or that the test is wrong.  Instead, I told my daughter that she should quickly pass out of the tests required at the lower level and then read whatever she wanted for the rest of the time period without having to worry about being tested, but rather just reading whatever she wanted to as long as she enjoys what's she is reading.  Turns out that the 7-year-old decided to read Lemony Snickets and Nancy Drew and Roald Dahl -- this is a 2nd grader reading what are classed as grade 6-8 books.  Good for her.  I fully support it.  And I also fully support the fact that she told the teacher that she didn't have to read any more books she was tested on after she got an A+ on her tests; I have no apologies for the teacher that brought up my statement during parent-teacher conferences.  Nor will I apologize for telling the teacher to leave her at the lower reading level for the next time period (there's not another official test for the year) so that she can do the same thing again.Bored in school and learning how to work in factories totally suck.  My daughter gets in trouble for doing her homework in class.  But she's bored in class and tells me that she's bored.  I've told her that if she gets in trouble, I will go in and talk to her principal -- the pressure from the teachers not to do it and to stay out of trouble is so intense, she hasn't taken me up on it yet, but she will and then she'll realize just how easy and fun it is to buck the system.I never apologize to the administration that send notes about my daughter missing too much school -- she's away learning life through skiing and visiting different cities and countries.  Nor will I apologize to the other parents that cower in horror about the fact that I think nothing of pulling my daughter out of school for a week to go do something cool -- if you don't understand, go read the e-book; I'm happy to send you a copy.  I'll talk a good dose of street-smart mixed with book-smart anytime; book-smart only doesn't work anymore.My daughter stands out and I'm proud of her for it. [...]

Fan feedback


This tour is making me seem nicer ... and taller.(image)

Insurance coverage limit winners


Recently in the entertainment industry it seems like the major entertainment companies are requiring excess insurance policies of $9mil on top of base policies of $2mil aggregate and $1mil per occurrence.  For those not intimately acquainted with how insurance works, essentially this means that the excess policy brings your aggregate limit to $11mil and your per occurrence limit to $10mil -- lots of coverage, to say the least.To get an idea of why coverage limits are climbing, consider this example for a typical general liability policy with $2mil in aggregate and $1mil per occurrence:The first day of coverage there is a claim for $1mil -- that burns up 50% of the aggregate coverage and maxes out the per occurrence limit.The second day of coverage there is a claim for $1mil -- that burns up the remaining 50% of the aggregate and maxes out the per occurrence limit.The third day of coverage you no longer have any insurance left, even though you can continue to issue certificates showing proof of the coverage that you purchased.Previous to the 2012 season, it seemed as though most large entertainment companies that were requesting insurance from entertainment service providers were happy with $3mil in aggregate coverage and $2mil-$3mil per occurrence; some of the higher volume providers carried excess policies of $3mil-$5mil bringing total coverage limits to $5mil and $7mil respectively.  Doing the quick math: for those that carried $3mil in aggregate, it's an $8mil (267%) increase; for those that carried $5mil in aggregate, it's a $6mil (120%) increase; for those that carried $7mil in aggregate, it's a $4mil (57%) increase.Any way that you look at it, in real aggregate dollars of coverage or percentage increases of coverage dollars, the numbers are staggeringly large -- as you might expect, the corresponding jumps in the prices of coverage are staggeringly large as well.The end result of these kinds of enforced jumps in order to continue doing business mean, generally, that prices of the services have to go up.  If buying up the insurance coverage costs a provider an extra percentage per billable unit, say 10%, then, correspondingly, the provider rates are likely to go up by 10% or the provider makes a business decision to absorb some of the additional insurance costs itself to keep your rates competitive, meaning that the provider receives lower net profit from the same work, which is not an ideal situation unless the provider can make up for lost net by increasing volume to make up for it.  In event-based entertainment in particular, due to the fact that it may be a particular tour or event requesting highly elevated coverage levels, vendors may choose to charge the entire increase effect to the entity requesting it -- either the insurance underwriter will sell an event- or tour-specific policy (unlikely) or the underwriter requires the entire policy limit for the term to be increased (most common).  The challenge in the case of the policy limit being increased for the term is that, although it is only one entity requesting the increase, all entities benefit from the increased limits. Consider this example: Big Promo asks a ABC Janitorial for increased limits for a festival, which costs ABC Janitorial an extra $10K per year.  ABC charges Big Promo $10K as part of its expenses, so there is no additional out-of-pocket expense to ABC, Big Promo has the coverage the want, and ABC maintains its margins without increasing service costs.  One month later, Little Promo hires ABC for a different festival and requests the same limits.  In a ethical and fair situation, ABC would charge Little Promo $5K for the insurance and refund $5K to Big Promo since the cost of the additional coverage is now split between two events that are requesting them.  If, however, ABC were to b[...]

Why Google TV?


Used to be a popular question considering how much the service underdelivered when it first rolled out.

However, today they announced that you can access Google Play content (music and movies) via your Google TV.

You may not think that this is a big deal, especially in the face of this functionality having been around for a while on the AppleTV, however, it's important to note that Google Play surpassed 25 billion app downloads in September, which is just 10 months after Play announced 10 billion downloads.  That's a hell of a lot of traffic and eyeballs on a store with a competing service to iTunes with a user base that grows worldwide every day.

Now, 25 billion app downloads does not equal the kind of volume that iTunes has done in music and movies, but getting that content onto the living room television certainly makes a lot of sense for consumers and a lot of sense for the Google TV brand.(image)

Lives of quiet, screaming desperation ...


I like this TEDx presentation from Nigel Marsh regarding work/life balance -- I've also embedded it below.

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Here's a direct quote from the presentation: "There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like."

Worth a watch and some hard thought.  Maybe even make that list of ideal work/life balance and see what it looks like and what it would take to realize it.(image)

What does freedom mean to you?


Adam Baker suggests that if you sell off all your crap and pay off your debts, you can do what you love -- he shares his story here in this 20 minute TEDx presentation that I've also embedded below.

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I find myself questioning more and more the same logic that Baker goes through myself.  Looking back at the education system, it's designed to train you to work in factories, to push you into a system that doesn't really seem to work anymore.  There is no secret commandment that says you have to go into debt for houses or cars or finance anything.  Certainly it's easier and made as easy as possible for you to finance things and go into debt, but that is very much the point.

There are lots of interesting stories about lifestyle creep (i.e., the more you make, the more you spend, and then you reset the minimum amount you have to make to "survive") and about the leveraged situations that people put themselves in (i.e., you have to make "x" amount of money to support all your debts and your lifestyle choices, so you trade happiness in what you do for a paycheck).

There's a problem, of course, with these lines of thinking and that is that the system is set up to "reward" those that play within the rules.  It's harder to drive the new, cool car if you don't lease it or finance it; it's harder to live in the cool house if you don't mortgage it.

I can tell you, however, from personal experience, that it's really not that hard if you put your mind to it.  And once you figure out how to work outside the typical system, you'll find that you're having more fun and you start to care less about the "things" that the system tells that you should have.  What you will realize is that you have significantly more flexibility, significantly more freedom of action.

What's funny is that I started in the same way that Adam suggests that everyone can: with the crap around the hours.  How much does the crap you have sitting around limit your freedom?

Grab a trash bag and make a start.  See where it takes you.(image)

Entertainment tours in a tour bus


There are an awful lot of people in the music business that support the major acts and live performances that you see at arenas and stadiums and theatres by traveling via tour bus.Some of the hardest working people in entertainment spend their nights sleeping in a small bunk space on a bus, leaving one city at night (or early in the morning) only to arrive in a new city when they wake up the next morning (or later the same morning) to do it all over again.It's an interesting culture in America of the people that not only choose to live this lifestyle, but thrive on this lifestyle -- these are people that might not know what to do in a "normal" job.Although many think I'm crazy, I have had and continue to engage in opportunities to be on tour myself.  My situation is atypical in that I am married and have kids, but I generally take part in tours with limited timespans that provide opportunities along the way for me to see my family.I have to be honest and say that my first on-tour experience made my nervous and I don't necessarily get nervous about a lot of things.  A big part of the reason for that was the fact that I was transitioning from a lifestyle of always living in a house or apartment with all of the amenities typically taken for granted -- big bed, bathroom, washer and dryer, etc. and trading that for a small bunk space on a bus.When people ask me in detail about life on tour, these are the things we generally talk about:Sleeping arrangements.  Most tour buses provide you with a small bunk space, which is your only private space on tour.  Typically buses are configured to sleep 12 people in these bunk spaces, so you essentially have 6 bunks on the passenger side of the bus and 6 bunks on the driver side of the bus -- these are configured 3 high by 2 long.  I honestly haven't done enough tours to particularly care about what bunk I get, but people that do this for a living typically have an exact bunk location that they prefer on the bus and there is much trading of spaces and negotiating that goes on at the start of tour.  For those of you that are curious, I seem to have a found a comfortable place on the front, lower, driver side bunk (shit, I might be one of those guys that has a preferred place already).  Note that the sleeping areas have no outside windows and are dark 24/7 -- when you see a tour bus, the sleeping area is generally the center section that is all made of metal.Privacy.  There really isn't any except for your bunk.  Each bunk has a curtain that can be pulled closed.  As I said before, the only personal space on a bus is your bunk and no one goes into anyone else's bunk when the curtain is closed.  Everywhere else on the bus is shared space.Bathrooms.  Buses have bathrooms, however, they are liquid-only -- that drives the adage of "no pooping on the bus".  Basically if the bus is moving and you need to do something non-liquid, you have to ask the driver to stop or dispose of things into a bag (an action affectionately referred to as "hot bagging").  Generally the waste tank is emptied daily, but you have to make sure that you are aware if it is getting full so that things don't overflow.Living space.  Generally the buses have a front lounge and a back lounge that is shared space.  Some buses have the back lounge set up to be able to be turned into a living suite and it largely depends on the tour and the bus that they have chosen as to how things are configured.  I've certainly been on buses where someone was living in the back space and it was their private area unless you were specifically invited in.  Nicer buses have a pop-out in the front that can be deployed once the bus is par[...]

Strategize and blogging: 9 years later


It's been some time since I've posted and quite some time since I posted with the frequency that I used to post before.With that having been said, the blog continues to generate pageviews of over 400 per day with an active subscriber base of over a couple of thousand -- most of the daily traffic is driven by search engines due to my lack of posting.When I first started blogging it was more for myself and the interactions and subscribers happened because I wasn't trying all that hard to garner traffic.  Then I experimented with things like book reviews and posting tips and tricks and it yielded more traffic to the point that I became obsessed with the metrics; for a while there I even tried advertising on the blog, which ultimately became a bad choice.After having not blogged for a while, I've come to find that I miss doing it.  The more that I blog, the better my writing is and I enjoy the freedom of expression that it provides to me.Following some careful thought, I gutted the old Blogger template and applied a new, optimized template today that gets rid of most of the color and makes the blog easier to read.  While I've kept the name "strategize",  I've changed the description of my blog to simply that of "The personal blog of Ross Hollman."  Not that I've restricted myself in the latitude of my posts before, but more as part of the general clean-up, I don't want to have a limited scope in the description that makes readers confused about what I'm posting about.We'll see how it goes as far as posting.  If you're interested in what I'm up to, I typically will fire out bursts of Twitter updates and you can follow me on Twitter here if you are interested.Lots of people are saying that blogging is dead and that there's now no real reason to start or re-engage.  I disagree, perhaps because my motivations are different than the average person trying to build a blog now from scratch and engage an audience for some sort of profit motivation.I've also been reminded that I work in a cool business that some people would probably like some visibility on, so I'll try to sprinkle in some of that information as well.Finally, I'm a lot older than I was when I started and I've developed my own opinions on things that I used to, in the past, agree with and re-post opinions from great guys like Tom Peters and Seth Godin; not that I don't still agree with guys like this, but I have enough experience now to throw those things out there without needing to start with words from someone else.Enjoy -- at the very least I've got a daughter that can read this now, so, at the very least, I really can claim that this is for her. [...]

Observations on conference calls these days


Now that I am spending an inordinate amount of time on conference calls these days, I figured I would share some observations:

  • Everyone can do conference calls now. makes it easy for anyone to provision a bridge, get and access code, and do conference calls ad-hoc.  Furthermore, it's really easy to provision a conference call line from that has international access numbers.  There's no reason not to be using conference calls and everyone seems to be -- at least 80% of the conference calls that I'm on are powered by
  • The free version of can suck sometimes -- you get what you pay for, so be prepared to have to dial back in if your connection goes haywire.
  • There seems to be a "fashionably late" protocol going on for most conference calls -- this is particularly annoying on bridges that require the host to be dialed in before they cut off the elevator music.  I was on one the other day where 15 of us were listening to crappy music until the host finally joined ... 20 minutes late.
  • No one elects to follow the "please announce yourself" prompt -- everyone just seems to push the # key, so people just join without being announced, which generally causes the host or someone to ask "Who just joined?" multiple times when the little tone goes off indicating that someone has joined.
  • Cell phones really don't like conference call bridges.  Either the call drops repeatedly or someone's cell phone is picking up and broadcasting so much background noise that the call is either killed or gaps in and out.  
  • People like to get on conference calls and talk to each other when they're not aware of who else might be listening.  If you want to have a conversation with your co-workers, I recommend not doing it on a bridge to which you have invited people that should not be party to such conversations.
  • Lots of people are having conference calls that cause people to dial-in and then conduct video and slideshow presentations that the people have called in can neither see nor hear very well.  I don't really understand this with the availability of either free or low cost online meeting products that include conference bridges, but the frequency with which I'm involved in these is astounding.

Tenley Project™ 2011 -- learning about giving again


Last year I was a proud father when my daughter took it upon herself to turn her hard-earned savings into the purchase of an American Girl doll for a child at the Children's Hospital in Denver.  I was so impressed by her decision, that I offered to match her donation so that she could get 2 dolls and I felt like I had to tell the story on this blog -- you can read the original post here.  Through the power of social media, traditional media, and the generosity of people around the country, the Tenley Project™ ultimately donated 42 American Girl dolls and several hundred dollars worth of additional toys to the Children's Hospital in Denver on Christmas morning last year.This year my daughter saved up her allowance again to be able to start the process, and at the time of this writing, we have received enough donations from people around the country to purchase 9 dolls in addition to the one that Tenley funded from her savings.  What's amazing to me is that we really only started publicizing the project around this time last night, so the generosity in the span of 24 hours has been very incredible.Over the course of telling lots of people about Tenley's story in the past year, we were lucky enough to come across a donor that wishes to remain anonymous, but has offered to match every dollar donated for toys as a direct cash donation to the Children's Hospital in Denver up to $5,000.00.  What this means to everyone generous to give is that every dollar donated means not only a toy for a child that is in the hospital, but a matching cash donation that goes directly to the Hospital itself.As with last year, if you find yourself particularly inspired to participating in giving something to someone to improve their holiday season, I certainly hope that you do.  If you find yourself inspired to donate to my daughter's project, you can do so on the Tenley Project™ website -- any amount is appreciated and goes to a great cause (and don't forget about the fact that every single dollar is matched).  And even if you are not in a position to donate this holiday season, I would ask that you do me the great favor of posting about the Tenley Project™ on your blog, Tweeting about it, posting about it on Facebook, or using any other means at your disposal to spread the word.PS -- This is one from me to you: giving resets your brain to realize that there is more than enough.  I have to admit to finding lots of excuses not to give in the past, but believe me, the feeling that you get from giving is incomparable and it is even more incomparable during the holiday season.  Times are tough and I know that not giving is the path of least resistance, but I encourage you to strongly consider giving even if it seems like a small sum that won't make a difference and even if it's tough to do.  This is my no-bullshit advice.  No strings attached and not a pitch to participate in my daughter's project. [...]

IconSettings for iPhone


Want to enhance your iPhone without Jailbreaking?  Do you wish that you could change phone settings via an icon shortcut instead of having to go through the settings icon and traverse multiple menus?

Just visit the IconSettings site from your iPhone.

(give it a few seconds for the icon to show up on the screen once you create the shortcut)


If you think those autocorrect sites are funny ...


... then you'll love Shit That Siri Says.

This can only get funnier as the distribution of iPhone 4S phones gets broader.(image)

SMS started to die today


iOS 5 went live to the general public today, which means iMessage went live to the public today.

Mark my words.(image)

A great book that helps end disease


I've read a bunch of great business books, though very few of them in the past have been compilations from amazing people centered around common categories.  I find that I consume more business knowledge these days in reading blog posts, so, regardless of who or how many people are authoring a book, I find myself enjoying books that are organized like blog posts.

(image) It was my pleasure to read End Malaria, the most strangely named business book that I've read in at least the past 12 months.  End Malaria represents a book that is used as a vector to help end malaria-related deaths by 2015 -- $20.00 of each sale goes directly to Malaria No More.

What's great about the book besides the amazing mission is the fact that all of the great authors have donated their insights and writings for free, and those writings and insights have been organized around common topics in blog post format (please see the first paragraph of this post if you are confused about why I think that's great).

Authors and contributors of note:
  • Seth Godin
  • Gina Trapani
  • Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner
  • Tom Peters
  • Patrick Lencioni
The list goes on, but rest assured that there are over 60 people adding their genius to the book.

Buy the Kindle version like I did for $20 and the full amount goes direct to the charity.


How does gun regulation work when you can print parts?


Lots of controversy swirling around about:This.And this.If you click the first link, you can have produced for you (read: printed for you) the lower receiver for an AR-15 rifle, which, technically, is the only part of the rifle that requires you to have a license in the United States.  Clicking on the second link will allow you to print an AR-15 magazine that is big enough to hold more than 5 rounds, but doesn't include the spring design, so it's a 5-round magazine; presumably a talented person could put that design into a modeling program, extend the clip length and make it to accommodate some number of rounds that pushes it into regulation territory, but as is, you can buy the same factory version of a 5-round magazine without any sort of license right now.The fundamental problem or question or point of debate around all this is whether or not this is illegal or immoral or wrong.  Thing is that no one really can answer whether printing a regulated weapon component is the same as buying one.  Most of the places that could print things like this for you discourage you from uploading weapon designs and producing weapons, but draw short of regulating because the production of such items is not currently illegal.Personally I am not sure that I'd want to fire a weapon that had a receiver made from a 3D plastic printing place.  I know that there are composite and carbon fiber receivers available on the market for the AR-15 that are designed for heavy use, but I'm not sure that's what you're getting out of a 3D plastic printhouse.  Doesn't mean that won't change in the future if you can specify the actual output material and performance specifications.Bear in mind that the lower receiver alone is not enough to make a weapon -- you do still have to locate and assemble the other parts.Please note that I'm not advocating you doing any of this -- I wouldn't want to be anywhere near a rifle built around this when a bullet wen through it. [...]

What's your secret sauce?


Today you too can build a 135 terrabyte server for around $7,500.00 in parts.  The cost to you for the plans and equipment list?  Absolutely nothing.Click right here and you can download the parts list and wiring diagrams at absolutely no cost from BackBlaze.Why would BackBlaze do this?  They're in the business of selling cloud-based storage and they do it at extremely affordable prices (think $50 per year for unlimited cloud storage); their hardware is a big part of what allows them to keep their prices so low ... right?Not really.  It turns out, as BackBlaze shows in their hardware plans, that outside of the custom enclosure, everything else inside one of their storage pods is commodity hardware.  Anyone with enough time could probably build one of their storage pods, so they have no problem giving away the hardware specifications and plans because that's not the special sauce at BackBlaze.By giving away the hardware BackBlaze is very unlikely to lose any customers -- who is going to stop using their service to go build one of these themselves?  In fact, due to the considerable press that they are receiving from this move (and it's the second time they've done it), they are probably going to gain customers that may have never heard of them.  BackBlaze is also unlikely to make its competitors better or create new competitors -- again, the hardware is not the secret sauce.What BackBlaze does, their secret sauce, is how they manage all of this hardware and put it together in a datacenter: the datacenter itself, the proprietary software that monitors all of the pods and distributes the inbound and stored data, the people that spend their time replacing failed drives.  How they create the software that works on your computer to efficiently transfer all of your date to their servers without bogging down your computer's operation.What could you give away for free and not worry about your competitors having?  (I'm not saying you have to, but going through the exercise may lead you to what actually differentiates you) [...]

My thoughts on BlackBerry


Since everyone seems to be asking me:They're going through tough times and they might not be able to recover.Their tablet is not that cool and they will likely pull the plug on it.They are rushing products and operating systems to market half-baked and not fully tested, which is making people abandon the platform.  Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints on the other side is that they don't have enough cool features in new software fast enough, so it's a bit of catch 22 for them.They have a massive installed base in corporations, including corporations that have sunk serious dollars into their own BlackBerry enterprise servers.They have a pretty large installed base of casual users and the whole BBM thing is a big deal; it may become less of a big deal when Apple releases iMessage, but iMessage isn't going to work on the BlackBerry hardware that's already out there, so there would need to be an even larger platform defection.I am still much more productive sending e-mail on my BlackBerry device than I am on my iPhone -- I can type faster and with more accuracy.BlackBerrys still have user-replaceable batteries and iPhones do not.Nothing that I said above hasn't been said by someone else.Here's what I really think: RIM needs to turn their business model into that of a software provider.  If they can figure out how to get their software running on Android and make all the IT geeks that run BES servers happy about the remote control, they can likely save that business segment and, maybe, save their business.  Additionally, they should focus on improving the phones that they are very successful with: the high-end Bold and the Curve, which, in my opinion, are the most pervasive BlackBerry devices that I see people use; assuming that they can sort out the software side, let the Android device manufacturers win the touchscreen hardware war.  Instead of focusing on setting the hardware curve or playing catch-up, just jam cooler features (higher megapixel cameras, NFC chips, larger on-board storage, etc.) into similar form factors that get incremental changes (different surfaces, different finishes, smaller and lighter cases) with each revision. (obviously it would be cool and huge for them if they could figure out iOS integration as well)Just my $0.02, but I wouldn't be buying the stock until they figure out a viable strategy.PS -- chances are better than they have ever been that RIM will get acquired, but even if that happens, you have to question the end strategy and justification and, in the case of an acquisition, I would still argue that it's an enterprise software play. [...]

As true today as the day they were first spoken


“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today.  As of this second, quit doing less than excellent work.” (Thomas Watson, founder of IBM)

"If you're going to work . . . work hard.  That way you'll have something to show for it.  The biggest waste is to do that thing you call work, but to interrupt it, compromise it, cheat it and still call it work." (Seth Godin)

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." (Wayne Gretzky)(image)

Knowing where the reset button is (the Oaklahoma Principle)


A friend of mine told me this story the other day:A bunch of years ago I was working doing refrigeration repair with this guy that had been doing it for many years.  We got an emergency call from a dairy farmer who had 30,000 gallons of milk in a refrigeration tank and the refrigeration unit for the tank had gone out.We tore out to the farm and the guy I was working with took a look at the refrigeration unit, cocked his head, reached in, and hit the reset button; the unit started right back up.  He did a couple of other things that didn't really matter and then turned to the farmer and told him that it would be $275.00.  It's important to note that the guy I worked with was a big Oklahoman and although the farmer wasn't a small guy, the Oklahoman was much bigger.The farmer said, "All you did was hit the reset button, and that cost $275?!"  And the Oklahoman responded, "It's not about hitting the button, it's that I know where it is."And that's the "Oklahoma Principle" of business: knowing where the reset button is.What's interesting about this story, of course, is the fact that now you can simply go to Google and negate the Oklahoma principle for most everything: when people find solutions, they tend to post them online, which means they can be found. When my furnace went out a few years ago, I searched and found where the hidden reset button was and then wrote a blog post about it, which means if you have the same furnace and search by the model number, you'll find my post.  I'm guessing the service call would have been a few hundred bucks for an "Oklahoman" to come hit it for me.  Similarly, I posted several years ago about where to find parts for a Porcher toilet because it took me forever -- it's still one of the most frequented older posts on my blog.When my washer went out, we did the research online and actually found the parts needed to repair it; we didn't want to repair it ourselves, but we knew what parts were needed and what the costs were, so there was no chance of us being charged for parts we didn't need or overcharged for the parts we needed.  Years ago I had a plumber tell me to invest $50.00 in a good toilet auger at Home Depot -- still have it and use it whenever there is a clog, which saves a $100.00 service call every time.Knowing where the reset button is no longer the money-making advantage it used to be when information was limited . . . no matter where you're from.Picture from Rigamorale, story from Chuck Grant (thanks, Chuck). [...]